Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has described as unconstitutional and illegal fines of N9 million reportedly imposed by the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) on Channels TV, AIT and Arise TV over the coverage of EndSARS protests.
The acting Director-General of the NBC, Professor Armstrong Idachaba, was said to have on Monday at a press conference in Abuja, accused the television channels of “unprofessional coverage” of the EndSARS protest and imposed a fine of N3 million on each of them.
But responding in a statement by its deputy director, Kolawole Oluwadare SERAP said, “This action by the NBC is yet another example of Nigerian authorities’ push to silence independent media and voices. The NBC should drop the fines and uphold Nigerian constitution and international obligations to respect and protect freedom of expression and media freedom. We will sue the NBC if the unconstitutional fines are not rescinded within 48 hours.”
The organisation added that the fines were detrimental to media freedom, and access to information and said that the NBC “must immediately withdraw the decision.”
The statement read in part, “Media freedom and media plurality are a central part of the effective exercise of freedom of expression and access to information. The ability to practice journalism free from undue interference, to cover peaceful protests, and critical views are crucial to the exercise of many other rights and freedoms.
“The media has a vital role to play as ‘public watchdog’ in imparting information of serious public concern and should not be inhibited or intimidated from playing that role. The NBC should stop targeting and intimidating independent media and voices.
“President Muhammadu Buhari should caution the NBC to stop intimidating and harassing independent media houses and to respect the Nigerian Constitution 1999 [as amended] and the country’s international human rights obligations, including under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.”